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Systems Engineering, Ph.D.

Grant Work Completed per Year in Systems Engineering
Core Faculty Members
Student to Faculty Ratio
In research expenditures in FY23
Degree Overview Open Accordion
Online Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

Online Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

A multi-disciplinary approach to solving complex problems

As technological advancements and the rate of innovation continue to accelerate, a systems approach is required to address today's multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary challenges.

A complex system consists of diverse and individual factors, or components, that are interdependent and add up to more than the sum of its parts. That complexity drives the need for systems engineering as a formal discipline, providing both a framework and a rigorous theoretical underpinning for the design and management of challenges across industries. To solve problems within complex systems, engineers must utilize tools from a variety of fields including control systems, operations research, reliability and performance engineering, risk analysis, software engineering, and networking and security.

The development of systematic design and management processes, while integrating appropriate tools and requirements from all of the above disciplines, is at the heart of systems engineering. The online Ph.D. in systems engineering prepares students to work with multi-disciplinary teams and methods to solve complex problems in any industry.

A Ph.D. program for professionals

The online Ph.D. in systems engineering is a competitive program for working professionals, offering a flexible study format and applicable material. Students are encouraged to problem-solve current issues faced by their employers as part of their studies.

Designed for senior management and top-level executives, CSU's highly selective online systems engineering Ph.D. program only accepts a handful of students each semester to maintain the integrity and quality of the student experience.

Faculty expertise and applied research

Be a part of a community of engineers exploring the frontier of modern research, pushing the boundaries in the field of systems engineering. The online Ph.D. prepares students to become future leaders in systems engineering. As Ph.D.-level scientists in both academia and industry, you will contribute original research to the field throughout your coursework, driving advancements and leading to improvements in your area of focus for your company and the discipline as a whole.

Study with faculty who bring decades of experience in applying academic research to real-world situations, who are conducting groundbreaking research of their own that will help write the textbooks of tomorrow.

Learn from faculty with expertise in:

  • Aerospace and Defense (A&D), including research, system and technology development, and operations;
  • Systems architecture and engineering with emphasis on information- and software-intensive systems and enterprises;
  • Technical management, production, manufacturing, lean engineering, life cycle management, test and analysis, transitioning technology into manufacturing; and
  • Design and analysis of aerospace, energy, and automotive systems, design optimization, and environmental assessment.

Visit the Systems Engineering website to learn more about the faculty associated with the systems engineering Ph.D. program, and their research specializations.

What you will learn in the online Ph.D. in systems engineering program

In consultation with your advisory committee, you'll individually structure the systems engineering graduate program to fit your academic and research goals. Your Ph.D. experience culminates in a dissertation* which serves to heighten research and knowledge in your area of interest, and demonstrates a solid foundation of systems engineering theory and practice, as well as a multi-disciplinary understanding of systems concepts.

Topics of study include:

  • Information technology and project management
  • Systems engineering processes
  • Engineering risk analysis
  • Systems engineering architecture
  • Simulation modeling and experimentation
  • Dynamics of complex engineering systems

Review the Ph.D. curriculum.

The online Ph.D. in systems engineering offers the advantage of synchronous or asynchronous delivery, allowing you the flexibility to study when and where it works best for your situation, with options to:

  • Watch and interact online while the lecture is happening live on campus.
  • Watch a recorded version online after work or on the weekend.

*Dissertation does not require a campus visit.

Industries with opportunities for systems engineers

The online systems engineering Ph.D. prepares students for a wide-variety of careers in many industries, including, but not limited to:

  • Research and development
  • Systems engineering and optimization
  • Healthcare
  • Government/Military
  • Aerospace
  • Clean energy
  • Environment
  • Automotive
Curriculum Open Accordion

The volume of applicants far exceeds the number of students that can be accepted into this program. The highly selective nature of the program maintains the integrity and quality of the student experience.


  • A minimum of 72 credits must be completed. Students with an applicable master’s degree may have up to 30 credits apply, such that they take 42 credits at CSU for the Ph.D.
  • The Ph.D. requires students to complete a qualifying process (B grade or higher earned in all coursework toward the degree), an oral preliminary examination, and an oral final examination in addition to the finished dissertation document. All Ph.D. students are considered provisional until they complete the qualifying process and preliminary exam.
  • Course substitutions, if permitted, must be approved by your department and faculty advisor.

Once admitted, please stay in touch with your department and faculty advisors and reference Department Resources and the SE Handbook to ensure you are meeting all program requirements.

Advising and Faculty Mentor Expectations

All Ph.D. applicants are expected to create a formal advising arrangement with a faculty advisor before joining the Ph.D. program to assist with advising, course selection, and research. Doctoral students must complete an annual evaluation with their research advisor every year to continue degree progress. To explore options for a faculty advisor, visit the faculty list.


The Ph.D. program requires a minimum of 18 credits of SE coursework, selected to be relevant to your research project, and a minimum of 24 credits of SYSE 799A dissertation, taken over the duration of your program. Faculty advisor permission is required before your first semester of SYSE 799A registration.

Course delivery options allow you to study when and where it works best for you, whether that is streaming the lecture from your computer while it's happening live on campus or watching a recorded version at a time more convenient for you.

Please check with the SE department for a complete list of course options. When registration for a term is open, use our Credit Courses Page to search and register for online courses.

Hear from Our Students Open Accordion

Jim Scheibmeir

“I was looking for a credible university with flexibility to study for my Ph.D. remotely. CSU Online provided both. I learned to make data driven decisions and remove my own bias in my thinking. I gained confidence, skills, enjoyment, and growth.”

Trevor A.

“I deal with systems engineering daily at my job - building systems from conception to operation. I had tunnel vision to solving engineering problems. This program taught me creative ways to solve problems. I learned about fields that I had little experience in such as digital twinning. My performance and motivation have improved because of this program.”

How to Apply Open Accordion

Application Deadlines

The highly selective nature of this program is intentional and designed to maintain the integrity and quality of the student experience. Before applying to the degree program, it is strongly recommended that you contact us well in advance of the application deadline to understand and fulfill all requirements.

Full consideration is given to applicants who meet the given deadline. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed as space within the program allows.

Fall semester July 1
Spring semester November 1

Start your application online and upload materials directly into the online system. You can save your progress and return any time.

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1Review Admission Requirements

Download the complete Systems Engineering Application Information Packet prior to starting the application process. This packet provides detailed information regarding CSU's Systems Engineering graduate programs, minimum application qualifications, criteria for admission, and more.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

  • B.S. degree from a regionally accredited institution in engineering, mathematics, or a science discipline with a GPA of 3.0 or greater
  • Basic Statistics
  • Calculus I

Note that meeting the minimum department standards does not ensure admission to the program. Admission to Colorado State University graduate programs is based on a number of factors, including prior academic and professional experience and the personal statement.

Start your application online and upload materials directly into the online system. You can save your progress and return any time. We recommend starting the application process at least 1 month before the deadline to ensure you submit all required materials on time.

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2 Secure a Faculty Advisor

A faculty advisor must be secured before you begin your application. Please download and reference the Systems Engineering Application Information Packet for details.

3 Prepare Application Materials

Prepare the materials below and upload when you apply online.

  • Three letters of recommendation
    Three professional recommendations are required. We recommend letters come from faculty, supervisors, etc. who can accurately speak to your skills. You will provide information about your recommenders in the online application. CSU will contact them with instructions and a link to a secure form they will submit on your behalf.
  • Resume
    Outline your professional employment, collegiate work, and any publications, exhibitions, service activities, prizes, and awards.
  • Statement of purpose
    (2 pages MAXIMUM) This is meant to address the Systems Engineering Admissions Committee and why you would be a good fit for the program. This is different from the Research Interest Summary you will compile, but some of the same information may be used. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
    • Your relevant professional/academic background and skills
    • Why you are interested in Systems Engineering — provide specific areas of interest and application
    • Why you are interested in CSU's program and what you can contribute to CSU

4 Complete Online Application

Complete the online graduate application and pay the nonrefundable application processing fee (payable online). As soon as you have completed the required information, please submit your application. Your application will not be reviewed until it is complete and all required materials have been received.

  • Select "Systems Engineering (Ph.D.) – Distance" when choosing the program of study

5 Request Transcripts

Request one official transcript of all collegiate work completed from all institutions attended. Transcripts from Colorado State University are not required. Transcripts must be received directly from the originating institution to be considered official.

Electronic (preferred):
Digital Transcripts must be submitted by the originating institution using a secure service such as parchment, eScrip-Safe, the National Student Clearinghouse, or e-Quals. Transcripts received via emails are considered unofficial.

Use institution code 4075 for Colorado State University or if the secure service requires an email address.

Mail (if necessary)
Graduate Admissions
Colorado State University – Office of Admissions
1062 Campus Delivery
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1062

6 FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions.

Check Your Application Status

View your application status at any time to ensure your application checklist is complete or to check on updates.

Once your complete application, including supporting materials, is received, the department admission committee will review your application and notify you of their decision.

For International Applicants

Proof of English language proficiency is required for applicants from countries or United States territories where there are official languages other than (or in addition to) English. This includes the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Learn more about English language proficiency requirements.


We love learning about your goals and answering any questions you have.

Tandi Hawkey
Prospective Student Support Coach
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Program Details

$1,175 per credit
Same in-state tuition for all.
Learn more about financial aid and scholarships Tuition/fees are just part of the cost to attend CSU. Learn more about the full Cost of Attendance
Degree Awarded
Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Engineering
Time Frame
Varies based on intensity of study and previous coursework
Admission Reqs.
  • 3.0 GPA on all undergraduate coursework
  • Basic Statistics
  • Calculus 1

Application Dates

Fall semester
July 1
Spring semester
November 1

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